Supplements are popular products in the US, with a significant percentage of shoppers choosing supplements to balance nutrition deficiency. Around 8% of the adult population and more than 1% of children in the US reportedly take fish oil supplements atleast once a month. This indicates the popularity of fish oil supplements among other supplements. While the benefits outstrip the mild to moderate fish oil side effects it is essential to be aware of the side effects to prevent possible undesirable experiences. Let’s understand the ideal quantities and the lesser known undesirable effects of consuming excessive quantities of fish oil.
Nutrition fact sheet – fish oil
Before we take a look at fish oil side effects let’s take a closer look at the nutritional benefits of fish oil and the reasons behind its popularity. The human body requires certain essential fatty acids that can only be sourced through dietary intake. Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly known as omega-3s are available in the desired concentration levels in fish and flaxseed. While there are different types of omega-3s, the most important are ALA – alpha-linoleic acid, EPA – eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA – docosahexaenoic acid. The latter two omage-3s are long chain varieties and by virtue of the structure of the fatty acids, the human body cannot make the fatty acids internally.
The only possibility is to use fish oil supplements or flaxseed supplements. The omega-3s in the supplements deliver ALA and this is subsequently converted to EPA and DHA, thereby helping boost the levels of the essential fatty acids in the body. The role of Omage-3s in health and nutrition is extremely important and the presence of Omega-3 in the retina, sperm and brain is known to have an impact on various health and reproduction parameters. Apart from the primary role in cell membranes, omega-3s deliver energy to the body and function as signalling molecules. These molecules have an important role in various organs of the body and their functioning. For instance, the immune system of the body, the endocrine systems, the pulmonary systems and the cardiovascular systems of the body require the right amounts of omega-3s for optimized functioning and good health.
Benefits of fish oil supplements
With the nutrition fact sheet out of the way, it is time to look at the specific benefits of fish oil supplements before proceeding to understand fish oil side effects. Among the benefits of fish oil supplements, the following are considered as important benefits that make the supplements popular – positive effects on the circulatory system, heart, impact on triglycerides, effect on stroke, depression, for treating conditions associated with mental health, nervous system, treatment of Alzheimer’s, various eye related ailments, macular degeneration that is related to aging, eye disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, apart from various other conditions.
For instance, individuals who consume more fishfood are less likely to have fatal heart diseases than others who do not eat seat seafood. There has been a visible change in the dietary intake of individuals in the US as a result of efforts to educate the public about the benefits of seafood. Consequently, the effect of fish oil supplements has been less noticeable in research results. This is precisely why there has been a shift in the findings conducted a decade ago and findings of studies conducted recently. For instance, studies conducted more than a decade ago highlighted the importance of seafood and/or fish oil supplements. However, recent studies have been unable to clearly demonstrate the positive effects of fish oil supplements. This is attributed to increased seafood intake and the use of medications for managing heart related conditions. However, there is unanimous consent that fish oil supplements help improve the health of the heart.
Commonly reported fish oil side effects
It is now time to look at fish oil side effects in detail. The commonly reported side effects are relatively mild in nature. For instance, individuals who are extremely sensitive to taste are likely to experience an unpleasant odor and taste in the fish oil supplements. Consumption of fish oil is also likely to result in foul smelling breath and sweat that smells strong with a distinct fish odor. Individuals are also known to experience mild headaches as a result of consuming fish oil supplements. This is attributed to the effects of the oil on the nervous system and the brain. Others are also likely to experience diarrhea, nausea and heartburn.
Other fish oil side effects that are of concern are rare in occurrence. For instance, studies have revealed that individuals are exposed to higher risk of prostate cancer as a result of heavy consumption of fish oil. Contrary findings indicate that fish oil supplements do not have a negative impact on prostate cancer and infact reveal that individuals on fish oil supplements benefit from a lowered risk of death from prostate cancer. While the findings are conflicting in nature, it is important to understand that one study showed a link between fish oil and prostate cancer. It is therefore necessary to exercise caution while consuming fish oil supplements to prevent excessive intake that could result in possible adverse reactions.
Drug interactions of supplements are another area of concern, and it is important to understand fish oil side effects when taken alongside other medications. For instance, patients on medication for blood clotting will experience drug interactions when omega-3 supplements are used. By virtue of being a natural anti-coagulant, fish oil will end up preventing blood from clotting. One of the reasons why omega-3 supplements are considered as beneficial to patients with heart conditions is the property of the supplement in thinning the blood. Consequently, it is known to have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. As a result of the anticoagulant property, individuals on certain medications are likely to be exposed to risk of bleeding. Patients on blood thinners, are advised to stay away from fish oil supplements during the course of treatment. In the case of individuals on lifelong medication that includes drugs that interact with fish oil supplements, it is essential to check with the treating specialist about its safety and the ideal quantity.
Rare fish oil side effects
A small section of individuals are also likely to experience gastrointestinal complications when consuming fish oil supplements. For instance, there is a possibility of individuals experiencing nausea and unusual vomiting sensations. There is also the likelihood of individuals suffering from either diarrhea or constipation as a result of consuming fish oil supplements. In such rare cases of fish oil side effects the best method to resolve the adverse effects is to reduce the amount of fish oil. This is most likely to bring an end to the possible side effects. In the event that the effects persist, individuals are expected to stop taking supplements to prevent the condition from worsening.
Other possible fish oil side effects that are regarded as rare in nature include internal bleeding. For instance, there are reports of individuals ending up with bleeding in the stomach and the intestines. There is also the possibility of individuals experiencing aggravation of ulcers. All of these side effects are attributed to the thinning of the blood, which in turn results in more bleeding. The best method to resolve these side effects is to reduce the amount of supplements being consumed. Additionally, as mentioned above, the side effects are primarily as a result of use with other medications. By stopping either of the two, it is possible to mitigate the side effects.
Fish oil side effects include possible allergies
Fish oil is also likely to cause allergies in individuals. A large number of individuals are allergic to fish and shellfish. It is possible that these individuals may experience the same allergic reactions when consuming fish oil supplements. While it is not necessary that an individual with allergies to fish or shellfish should develop allergies to fish oil supplements, the possibility exists.